Monday, April 26, 2010

Hiding in Plain Sight

The prophet Isaiah said, "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel." It is an interesting thought. It is certainly my experience.

The Bible says that God has revealed himself to his chosen people Israel and to all mankind. Indeed the Bible purports to be a record of that revelation... or the revelation itself, depending on your understanding of the nature of scripture. Yet my experience is that of Isaiah: God is a God who hides himself.

My experience of prayer is that God is powerfully present with me, yet also hiding. Not intentionally. It is just his nature. When I pray I have the sensation that God is not anywhere "out there." It feels like God is behind me. If I turned around quickly enough maybe I could catch him playing hide and seek. He is palpably present, yet out of my field of vision.

One of my favorite theologians is the fourteenth century preacher German Meister Eckhart. He said in one of his sermons, "The eye with which I see God is the eye with which God sees me." That sounds right. I could likewise say that the ear with which I hear God is the ear with which God hears me. God is so present that there is no place to hide.

Muhammad (dare a Christian quote the Quran?) said that God is closer to us than our jugular vein. That also seems right. I can hear him in the rhythm of my heart and in the movement of my breath. God is not an object to be seen or heard or known. He is the Subject. He is the Knower. He is the Pray-er.

The apostle Paul said, "The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

The Spirit prays in us ... for us ... through us. John Main says, "Prayer is the life of the Spirit of Jesus within our human heart. The Spirit prays in us and we consent." This is not only the pattern in prayer, but also in everyday life. Another fourteenth century Christian, Teresa of Avila, wrote this poem: 
 
Christ has no body now on earth but yours, 
No hands but yours, No feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks at the world; 
Yours are the feet with which he walks; 
Yours are the hands with which he blesses men now.

Christ said that he is the hungry, thirsty, poor and imprisoned person right in front of us. As we have acted toward them, we have acted toward him. God is hiding in plain sight. Too close to see. Too near to ignore.

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